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McEachern Students Get Real-World Education

Josue Macias and Joseph Ramirez
Josue Macias and Joseph Ramirez

The City of Powder Springs’ inaugural internship program is a rousing success.

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

According to the online job search firm Indeed, there are a multitude of benefits for individuals who participate in internship programs. An internship is a great introduction to an industry or a role one may want to pursue, the company says, and benefits range from job experience, mentorship, networking, securing employment references, and building confidence in one’s abilities. “The transition from college to full-time employment can fill you with excitement, anxiety, hope, and ambition all at once,” Indeed’s editorial team writes. “An internship is a good way to fill some transition time with the work you hope to do long-term. It can eliminate some pressure of quickly finding a permanent job and help you apply the skills and knowledge you have acquired to a practical situation.”

Typically, one might think of an internship as an opportunity solely for college students and recent college graduates. But the City of Powder Springs has seen a chance to help local high school students with a program it launched last year in collaboration with McEachern High School. The STEM Independent Research and Internship program, overseen by McEachern STEM Instructor and AP & Honors Physics Instructor, Beth Amacher, evolved into a partnership with the City of Powder Springs after a student reached out to the city looking for an internship opportunity. His interest was in business development, so City Manager Pam Conner agreed to a placement in the city’s Economic and Community Development departments and she contacted local businesses about possible work for the student. This resulted in a public/private partnership and sparking the idea to help more students gain valuable experience in the workforce before determining their future career paths.

“I then met with Ms. Amacher about the scope of the program and during that discussion learned about the interest from three other students,” recalled Conner. “Given their field of interest in math and fleet management, I knew there were likely opportunities for internship positions within our public works department as well. The department was willing to participate, and we agreed to accept three more students.”

Thus, this innovative program was born. And with it came unique opportunities for McEachern students MyMy Le, Jaydan Hall, Joseph Ramirez, and Josue Macias. “When our senior class began looking for internships [last] August, I met with Pam Conner, and she assisted in arranging four of my students with an internship opportunity in Powder Springs,” Amacher said. “[It has been] an invaluable partnership that I know we will grow together to offer these opportunities to our students in the future.”

Amacher started the senior-level Independent Scientific Research/Internship class a few years ago modeled after Kennesaw Mountain High School’s successful magnet program research class. “I work with the students to refine their resumes, learn about workplace ethics, and how to construct a proper, professional email,” she said. “We even practice ‘cold calls’ and visits to walk into businesses with résumé in hand to ‘sell themselves’ in attempt to secure the internship they need to conduct research.”

As freshmen in McEachern’s STEM program, Amacher says students are encouraged to find a problem about which they are passionate and begin researching. They learn to analyze and read peer-reviewed articles and learn the basics of the research process. By the time they are seniors, they have built up a volume of understanding on their unique interest and are ready to pursue an internship to aid in even more understanding and analysis of the topic. “For the 10-week internship, they get to know the business/organization and eventually conduct quantitative research,” Amacher continued. “After the internship, the students return to school where they analyze their data, write their research paper on their findings, and then present their unique study to the community. The STEM Research Presentation Evening [which took place this past December] is a celebrated event for our seniors as they present to our community judges, parents, peers, and mentors. The students are all encouraged to publish their work in one of the many journals that publish high school research like the Journal of Emerging Investigators.”

The four McEachern students referenced above worked their internships from late August through mid-November of last year. As they were winding down their jobs and preparing to write their reports, Cobb In Focus contacted each student to learn about their experiences.

MyMy Le
MyMy Le’s internship was with the City of Powder Springs Public Works. Because of her interest in math, she was assigned to help analyze and revise the city’s sanitation route. That seems like one heck of a résumé building block. My internship at Public Works was a truly enriching experience,” Le said. “While I do not have a favorite memory in mind, the best moments were all the fun my fellow interns and I had navigating the trial and error of learning new things.

MyMy Le
MyMy Le

“My intrigue for statistics led me to pursue this internship, which provided a multi-faceted exploration into various domains,” Le continued. “Alongside statistics, I have been lucky enough to also gain a brief introduction to cars and fleet management, while also receiving plenty of valuable college advice from my mentor.”

“Internship students enrolled in the McEachern High School STEM program provide the City of Powder Springs with college-level, world-class talent that assists the city in making analytical problem-solving decisions,” said Leroy Young, Sanitation/Fleet Supervisor for the City of Powder Springs. “This same program enables students to showcase their talents in real world environments years ahead of traditional college internships.”

Jaydan Hall
Hall is the student credited with getting this program going by reaching out to the City of Powder Springs on his own to inquire about an internship. He has a passion for business, so Conner was able to arrange a series of part-time assignments for Hall’s internship. He worked at The Bookworm, Rooted Trading Co., Hand Me Ups, Blade’s Lawn Mower Shop, Kennedy Advisors & Associates, and RID Property Services. “I loved this entire experience,” Hall said. “Some of my favorite memories are helping Rooted with their stores’ marketing, being able to do the visits of worksites with RID Property Services, and learning more about the city with City Management, Community Development, and Economic Development.

“This program has definitely given me further insight on the inner workings of businesses and learn about how they were created and built to what they are today,” he continued.

Jaydan Hall at The Bookworm.
Jaydan Hall at The Bookworm.

It seems the business owners were equally thrilled with the program. “Jaydan is a smart young man. He has an entrepreneurial spirit,” says RID Property Services’ Saul Rodriguez. “Our experience [with the program] was good; it’s an opportunity to show seniors a real-life experience of running a business. City [officials] reached out to see if we would participate. We would do it again next year.”

“Each Tuesday, I would spend time mentoring him on some of the behind-the-scenes business operations in owning a bookstore,” adds The Bookworm’s Julia Davis. “Jaydan would then spend time doing things that sometimes people don’t necessarily think about as tasks in a bookstore — things like cleaning books, sorting for donation programs, and searching for missing inventory.

“I would absolutely do this again,” Davis continues. “I think it is important to provide our youth with an opportunity to learn not only about owning a business, but work ethic and helping to prepare them for the for the workforce with hands-on experience.”

Hall will be attending college soon. He says his top choices are Florida A&M University, Morehouse College, Duke University, and the University of Miami.

Joseph Ramirez
McEachern senior Ramirez interned with the city’s fleet management office. “I enjoyed nearly every second of it,” Ramirez said. “My favorite memory of the internship was when we were able to figure out what was wrong with one of the work trucks. We had to use technology, such as the OBD (on board diagnostic) scanner, in order to pinpoint the problem area in the truck.”

Ramirez also enjoyed the experience of simply going to work every day, which was quite a different routine when compared with going to school. “One of the major points of the internship was to give us real-world experience,” he said. “This accomplished that as we had to dress up every day and come with an open mind to understand some concepts I never knew about.”

Currently, Ramirez is in the process of applying to colleges, including Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, and Emory University. He says his main interest is being in the biomedical field, but the Powder Springs internship program opened his eyes to other fields such as mechanical engineering.

Josue Macias
Macias also interned with Powder Springs’ fleet management office. He said he enjoyed applying the scientific principles learned in the classroom. “My favorite moment [was] disassembling a one piston engine,” Macias said. “Previously, I had researched different car parts on my own and learned about the engine as individual parts. The crankshaft, camshaft, piston, connecting rods, and many more items were just parts, but disassembling the engine and observing how everything works was the amalgamation of so many parts into one cohesive, amazing system. This experience helped me understand engines far better than any website or video and I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

Macias plans to attend Kennesaw State University where he will study engineering. “While I may not be directly working on vehicles, the concepts I’ve learned and tools my mentor has taught me to use will undoubtedly help me better understand aspects of the field.”

McEachern High School’s Growing STEM Program
McEachern STEM Instructor and AP & Honors Physics Instructor, Beth Amacher, has taught at the high school for 22 years, and it always has been her goal to have a sustainable, growing STEM program. Last year, she says her hard work paid off when the program was granted certification. Currently, there are just under 100 students in the program. “The tremendous value for our students lies in the unique approach we are taking with the program,” Amacher said. “The students collaborate and communicate with different content areas to design and create various projects. …Students gain valuable knowledge while practicing critical thinking skills in this program with our student-centered lessons. In addition to the cutting-edge technology with our labs, the students also have the opportunity to collaborate with different classes to design and build or create original work. …One of the tremendous benefits is the development of connections the students are making with different disciplines, as well as learning to collaborate with others and communicate their perspectives. The senior-level course where the student secures an internship and designs and conducts their unique quantitative study, prepares them for the workplace as well as giving them an opportunity to conduct college-level research and data analysis.”

Amacher says the school’s goal with the program is to continually improve and expand. “We want our kids prepared to enter the workforce and/or higher education with a distinct advantage and we can only do this if we continue to improve. We are fortunate to have a core group of STEM teachers who collaborate well together, always going above and beyond to best serve our students. Our program also has the amazing support from our administrator, Krystal Wattley, whose tireless efforts and support have allowed us the opportunity to flourish.

Students receiving their certificates of completion for the internship program.
Students receiving their certificates of completion for the internship program.
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